Scientist James Lovelock, 96, Thinks Humans Are Going To Kill Themselves

Photo via The Sunday Times UK

Photo via The Sunday Times UK

"Lovelock believes global warming is now irreversible, and that nothing can prevent large parts of the planet becoming too hot to inhabit, or sinking underwater, resulting in mass migration, famine and epidemics. Britain is going to become a lifeboat for refugees from mainland Europe, so instead of wasting our time on wind turbines we need to start planning how to survive. To Lovelock, the logic is clear. The sustainability brigade are insane to think we can save ourselves by going back to nature; our only chance of survival will come not from less technology, but more.

Interviewers often remark upon the discrepancy between Lovelock's predictions of doom, and his good humour. 'Well I'm cheerful!' he says, smiling. 'I'm an optimist. It's going to happen.'

At moments I wonder about Lovelock's credentials as a prophet. Sometimes he seems less clear-eyed with scientific vision than disposed to see the version of the future his prejudices are looking for. A socialist as a young man, he now favours market forces, and it's not clear whether his politics are the child or the father of his science. His hostility to renewable energy, for example, gets expressed in strikingly Eurosceptic terms of irritation with subsidies and bureaucrats. But then, when he talks about the Earth - or Gaia - it is in the purest scientific terms all.

'There have been seven disasters since humans came on the earth, very similar to the one that's just about to happen. I think these events keep separating the wheat from the chaff. And eventually we'll have a human on the planet that really does understand it and can live with it properly. That's the source of my optimism.'

What would Lovelock do now, I ask, if he were me? He smiles and says: 'Enjoy life while you can. Because if you're lucky it's going to be 20 years before it hits the fan.'" - Decca Aitkenhead via The Guardian